Dr. Gary Kuchar

Dr. Gary Kuchar
English, CSPT
Office: CLE C329

MA and PhD (McMaster)

Area of expertise

Renaissance Literature; Seventeenth-Century Poetry and Prose; Intellectual History; Reformation Culture and Thought; Shakespeare; Literary/Critical Theory; Philosophy of Religion

Dr. Kuchar won the Canadian Association of Graduate Studies and University Microfilm Institute Distinguished Dissertation Award in 2003 and the Montaigne Prize from the Canadian Society of Renaissance Studies in 2022. He is a contributor to the Oxford History of Poetry in English Volume 5: Seventeenth-Century British Poetry in English (Forthcoming); the Oxford Handbook to George Herbert (Forthcoming); the Routledge Companion to Renaissance Literature (Forthcoming); the Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and Religion (2019); the Blackwell Companion to English Renaissance Poetry (2017); and the Broadview Anthology of British Literature 2nd ed. (2010).

Fall 2023

ENSH 230 A02: Literature and the Crisis of Authority in the West

This course is a study in literature and ethics at times of moral crisis. In it, we shall examine plays, poems, criticism, and a novella which ask some of the following questions at different moments in Western history: how do you make a decision that will forever change the course of your life? On what grounds do you decide to act, knowing that it might cost you everything? How do you make such decisions when there is no clear authority or value system to guide you? How do you make sense of the world when so many forms of authority are in decline, including the authority of our own personal agency? In addressing such questions, we shall consider the role literature has played as “equipment for living” in different times and places in the West.

ENSH 351 A01: Renaissance Literature

Often called "the age of genius," sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English literature remains a "golden age" of British letters. By studying important works from the English Renaissance, students will learn about the development of this period's most significant literary traditions. Particular focus will be placed on changing representations of love, nature, and the self in the wake of major cultural upheavals, such as the rise of science, humanism, civil war, and religious reformation.

Spring 2024

ENSH 101 A10: Themes in Literature (AWR)

The theme of this section of ENSH 101 is imagination and reality in literature. What role does imagination play in shaping our view of the world? How do different types of stories inform our understanding of varying dimensions of mind and cosmos? When does imagination enhance our view of the world? And when does it deform or undermine it? Where is the line between dream and delusion?

ENSH 544: Ethics in Literature/ Other Media: Theory, Ethics, Literature

A study of the relation between literature and ethics from Plato to Postmodernism, focusing particularly on the rise, decline, and re-emergence of virtue theory. 

Selected Publications

Shakespeare and the World of 'Slings & Arrows'


McGill-Queen's University Press, 2024

Slings & Arrows, starring Susan Coyne, Paul Gross, Don McKellar, and Mark McKinney as members of the New Burbage Theatre Festival, was heralded by television critics as one of the best shows ever produced and one of the finest depictions of life in classical theatre. Shakespeare scholars, however, have been ambivalent about the series, at times even hostile. In Shakespeare and the World of "Slings & Arrows" Gary Kuchar situates the three-season series in its cultural and intellectual contexts. More than a roman à clef about Canada's Stratford Festival, he shows, it is a privileged window onto major debates within Shakespeare studies and a drama that raises vital questions about the role of the arts in society. Kuchar reads the television show - ever fluctuating between faith and doubt in the power of drama - as an allegory of Peter Brook's widely celebrated account of modern theatre, The Empty Space, mirroring Brook's distinction between holy theatre, a quasi-sacred vocation, and deadly theatre, a momentary entertainment. Combining contextualized interpretations of the series with subtle formalist readings, Kuchar explains how Slings & Arrows participates in a broader recuperation of humanist approaches to Shakespeare in contemporary scholarship. The result is a demonstration of how and why Shakespeare continues to provide not just entertainment, but equipment for living.

George Herbert and the Mystery of the Word


Palgrave, 2017

This book presents a historically and critically nuanced study of George Herbert's biblical poetics. Situating Herbert's work in the context of shifting ideas of biblical mystery, Gary Kuchar shows how Herbert negotiated two competing impulses within post-reformation thought—two contrary aspects of reformation spirituality as he inherited it: the impulse to certainty, assurance, and security and the impulse to mystery, wonder, and wise ignorance. Through subtle and richly contextualized readings, Kuchar places Herbert within a trans-historical tradition of biblical interpretation while also locating him firmly within the context of the early Stuart church. The result is a wide ranging book that is sure to be of interest to students and scholars across several different fields, including seventeenth-century studies, poetry and the bible, and literature and theology. 

The Poetry of Religious Sorrow in Early Modern England


Cambridge University Press, 2008.

In early modern England, religious sorrow was seen as a form of spiritual dialogue between the soul and God, expressing how divine grace operates at the level of human emotion. Through close readings of both Protestant and Catholic poetry, Kuchar explains how the discourses of "devout melancholy" helped generate some of the most engaging religious verse of the period. From Robert Southwell to John Milton, from Aemilia Lanyer to John Donne, the language of "holy mourning" informed how poets represented the most intimate and enigmatic aspects of faith as lived experience. In turn, "holy mourning" served as a way of registering some of the most pressing theological issues of the day. By tracing poetic representations of religious sorrow from Crashaw's devotional verse to Shakespeare's weeping kings, Kuchar expands our understanding of the interconnections between poetry, theology, and emotion in post-Reformation England.

Purchase Here


Divine Subjection: The Rhetoric of Sacramental Devotion in Early Modern England


Duquesne University Press, 2005.

Combining theoretically engaged analyses with historically contextualized close readings, Divine Subjection posits new ways of understanding the relations between devotional literature and post-reformation English culture. Shifting the critical discussion from a "poetics" to a "rhetoric" of devotion, Kuchar considers how a broad range of devotional and meta-devotional texts in Catholic and mainstream Protestant traditions register and seek to mitigate processes of desacralization -- the loss of legible commerce between heavenly and earthly orders. This shift in critical focus makes clear the extent to which early modern devotional writing engages with some of the period's most decisive theological conflicts and metaphysical crises.


The Return of Theory in Early Modern English Studies Vol 2. eds. P. Cefalu, G. Kuchar, B. Reynolds.


Palgrave, 2014.

Scholars and students interested in the use of current critical theories will find this collection of original essays indispensable. A companion volume to The Return of Theory in Early Modern English Studies: Tarrying with the Subjunctive, the essays in this volume are organized into four categories: posthumanism, ecocriticism, historical phenomenology, and historicism now. Original essays by leading early modern scholars not only provide valuable insights into leading theoretical interventions, but also provide close readings of key early modern texts, including Shakespearean drama, the work of Philip Sidney, George Herbert and John Donne, John Milton's Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, Margaret Cavendish's The Blazing-World, and the early modern reception of Empedocles in the work of Marlowe's Tamburlaine and others.

"Slings & Arrows and the State of Play in Shakespeare Studies." Shakespeare 17.3 2021. DOI: 10.1080/17450918.2021.1903980 :318-343.

 "Satan and Robert Southwell in Book 9 of Paradise Lost." Notes and Queries 66.4 (2019) : 538-539.

"Compassion, Affliction, and Patience." In H. Hamlin (Ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and Religion. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019), 134-150. doi:10.1017/9781316779224.009 

"The Sounds of Appleton House: Andrew Marvell's Poetic Audioscapes." Modern Philology 116.4 (2019): 350-376.

"Milton, Shakespeare, and Canadian Confederation: Thomas D'Arcy McGee As Literary Critic." University of Toronto Quarterly 88.1 (2018): 1-23.

"Spiritual Alchemy in Andrew Marvell's Eyes and Tears" Notes and Queries 65.2 (2018): 202–204.

"Richard Crashaw and George Herbert's The Temple: Mystery, Liturgy, Error." Cithara 57.2 (2018): 65-99.

"Poetry and Sacrament in the English Renaissance" in Blackwell Companion to English Renaissance Poetry ed. Catherine Bates.  Oxford: Blackwell, 2017.

"Introduction: Distraction and the Ethics of Poetic Form in The Temple" in George Herbert: Spiritual Poetics and Poetic Spirituality. Christianity and Literature 66.1 (2016): 4-23. 

"Poetry and the Eucharist in English Renaissance: A Review Essay." George Herbert Journal 36 1&2 (2012-13): 128-149.

Exegesis and Experience in Herbert and Calvin: A Review Essay of Daniel W. Doerksen Picturing Religious Experience: George Herbert, Calvin, and the Scriptures (Newark: Delaware UP, 2011). George Herbert Journal 34.1-2 2010/11. 119-136.

"Robert Southwell's 'A Vale of Tears':  A Psychoanalysis of Form." Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature 34.1 (2001): 107-120.  Reprinted in Literary Criticism 1400-1800 ed. Thomas J. Schoenberg Vol. 108.  Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2005.  271-348.  Also reprinted in Poetry Criticism.  ed. Michelle Lee. Vol. 83. Detroit: Gale, Cengage Learning, 2008.  220-344.

"Sounding The Temple: George Herbert and the Mystery of Hearkening" Figures of the Sacred in  English Poetry. eds. Jennifer Kilgore-Caradec, Ineke Bockting, and Cathy Parc. New York: Peter Lang: 2013.

"Alchemy, Repentance, and Recusant Allegory in Robert Southwell's St. Peters Complaint" in Redrawing the Map of Early Modern English Catholicism ed. Lowell Gallagher. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2012. 135-157.

"A Greek in The Temple: Pseudo-Dionysius and Negative Theology in Richard Crashaw's 'Hymn in the Glorious Epiphany." Studies in Philology 108.2 (2011): 261-298.

"Love's Best Habit: Eros, Agape, and the Psychotheology of Shakespeare's Sonnets" in Renaissance Literature and the Return to Theory eds. Paul Cefalu and Bryan Reynolds. New York: Palgrave, 2010.  211-236. Rpt. Shakespeare Criticism. ed. Lawrence J. Trudeau. Vol. 152. Detroit: Gale, 2013.

"Decorum and the Politics of Ceremony in Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus." in Shakespeare and Religion: Historical and Post-Modern Perspectives. eds. Arthur Marotti and Ken Jackson. North Bend: Notre Dame University Press, 2011. 46-78.Rpt. Shakespearean Criticism, ed. Lawrence J. Trudeau, vol. 169, Gale, 2016. 278-292.

"Prayer Terminable and Interminable: George Herbert and the Art of Estrangement." Religion and Literature. Forum on Devotional Poetry ed. Hannibal Hamlin. 42.3 (2010): 132-143. Rpt. in Literature Criticism from 1400 to 1800 ed. Lawrence J. Trudeau, vol. 259, Gale, 2017. 276-280.

"Ecstatic Donne: Conscience, Sin, and Surprise in the Sermons and the Mitcham Letters." Criticism 51 (2009):  631-654.  Reprinted in John Donne and the Metaphysical Poets ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 2010.

"Gender and Recusant Melancholia in Robert Southwell's Mary Magdalene's Funeral Tears." Catholic Culture in Early Modern England. eds. A. Marotti, R. Corthell, F. Dolan, and C. Highley.  North Bend: Notre Dame University Press, 2007. 135-57. Rpt. Literature Criticism from 1400 to 1800, ed. Lawrence J. Trudeau, vol. 258, Gale, 2017. 160-171.

"Petrarchism and Repentance in John Donne's Holy Sonnets." Modern Philology 105.3 (2008): 535-69. Reprinted in Literary Criticism on John Donne (Gale: 2012) and Poetry Criticism. ed. Lawrence J. Trudeau (Gale 2013).

"Andrew Marvell's Anamorphic Tears." Studies in Philology 103.3 (2006): 345-81.

"'Organs of thy Praise': The Function and Rhetoric of the Body in the Work of Thomas Traherne."  Symbolism: A New International Journal of Critical Aesthetics 4 (2003): 95-132.  Reprinted in Religion in the Age of Reason ed. Kathryn Duncan.  New York: AMS Press: 2008.

"Aemilia Lanyer and the Virgin's Swoon: Theology and Iconography in Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum." English Literary Renaissance 37 (2007): 47-73.

"Embodiment and Representation in John Donne's Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions." Prose Studies 24.2 (2001): 15-40.

"Traherne's Specters: Self-Consciousness and its Others." Re-Reading Thomas Traherne. ed. Jacob Blevins. Tempe, Arizona: ACMRS, 2007.  173-200.  Rpt. in Poetry Criticism. ed. Lawrence J. Trudeau. Vol. 174.  Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, 2016. 

"Rhetoric, Anxiety, and the Pleasure of Cuckoldry in the Drama of Ben Jonson and Thomas Middleton." JNT: Journal of Narrative Theory 31.1 (2001): 1-30.

"Henry Constable and the Question of Catholic Poetics: Affective Piety and Erotic Identification." Philological Quarterly 85.2 (2006): 69-90.

"Henry James and the Phenomenal Reader: Consciousness and the Variation of Style in The Wings of the Dove." Henry James Review 21.2 (2000): 170-185. Reprinted in The Wings of the Dove.  Second Edition. Eds. J. Donald Crowley and Richard A. Hocks. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2002. 562-577.  Excerpted in Henry James, ed. Harold Bloom.  New York: Chelsea House, 2001.

"Typology and the Language of Concern in the Work of Northrop Frye." Canadian Review of Comparative Literature 27.1-2 (2000):  159-180.  Reprinted in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. ed. Thomas J. Schoenberg and Lawrence J. Trudeau. Vol. 165. Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2005. 138-264.

"Narrative and the Forms of Desire in Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis." Early Modern Literary Studies 5.2 (1999): 1-24.  Reprinted in Shakespearean Criticism. ed. Michael L. LaBlanc. Vol. 79. Detroit: Gale Group, 2004. 305-366.

Selected Awards

  • Montaigne Prize, Canadian Society of Renaissance Studies (2022)
  • IRCG (2022)
  • CSRS, Faculty Fellow (2020)
  • Faculty Fellowship (2016)
  • Humanities Faculty Research Award (2010)
  • Social Sciences and Humanities Standard Research Grant (2009-13)
  • Social Sciences and Humanities Post-Doctoral Fellowship (2002-4)
  • Canadian Association of Graduate Studies and University Microfilm Institute Distinguished Dissertation Award (2003).

Public Humanities

Try as she might, Naomi Klein cannot seem to break free of the mirror-world of political illusion.                                                                                            https://www.abc.net.au/religion/escaping-the-labyrinth-the-mirror-world-of-naomi-klein/102970800

Let's Get Metaphysical: Office Hours with Dr. Kuchar. Clearihue Corner Podcast. https://open.spotify.com/episode/26duY5zh76OPGcuFrhaB4R?si=863ea7cee0884b25

No Freedom Without Virtue: How Volodymyr Zelenskyy Can Teach Us To Read Paradise Lost https://www.abc.net.au/religion/gary-kuchar-reading-milton-paradise-lost-in-ukraine/13855322

Sorrow in Solidarity: Poetry and Suffering From Ukraine to Australia https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/soul-search/sorrow-in-solidarity-poetry-and-suffering-from-ukraine/13878690

Literature, Religion, and the Senses of Place in the English Civil War. https://soundcloud.com/universityofvictoria/literature-religion-and-the-senses-of-place-in-the-english-civil-war?in=universityofvictoria/sets/centre-for-studies-in-religion

Get to Know a Researcher: Gary Kuchar on Thomas D'Arcy McGee. https://www.uvic.ca/humanities/news/archives/get-to-know-a-researcher---gary-kuchar.php

Milton, Shakespeare, and Canadian Confederation: Thomas D'Arcy McGee As Literary Critic." University of Toronto Quarterly 88.1 (2018): 1-23. 

Victoria Shakespeare Society Program Notes. The Tempest (2018); The Winter's Tale (2016); As You Like It (2012). https://www.vicshakespeare.com/history